Madison County has a new chairman as of Monday morning, and changes are already beginning in the county building.
Kurt Prenzler was sworn in shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, in a ceremony that had strong religious overtones. The key speaker was the Rev. Danny Holliday, pastor of the Victory Baptist Church, who spoke at length stating that public officials are endowed by their creator and not by the government.
“God our creator gives us our basic rights, and it is up to government to do the will of God,” he said.
Holliday said that “laws are founded on Biblical truth,” and that the presence of a higher power is recognized in founding documents. “The United States says abortion is a woman’s choice, the Bible says it is murder,” he said. “That’s not political, I’m just saying it. The ultimate public official is God.”
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Prenzler’s remarks were brief, thanking his family, the taxpayers and God for “the opportunity to serve.”
The judge who swore in Prenzler was Associate Judge Luther Simmons. Prenzler and Simmons are both graduates of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and Simmons is currently assigned to the criminal docket in Madison County Circuit Court.
“He’s a few years older than me,” Prenzler said, recounting that when Simmons was a freshman at the school, President-Elect Donald Trump was a junior.
The ceremony takes place on a busy day for Madison County government. On Monday evening, the County Board will meet to swear in its new board members. In the November election, the balance of power on the board changed from an 18-10 Democratic majority to a 15-13 Republican majority for the first time since the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, at least as far as county leaders can remember. One independent also serves on the County Board.
The new members are to be sworn in, and will immediately address Prenzler’s reorganization: firing seven department heads and replacing them with new employees. Among them: county administrator Joseph Parente would be replaced by current chief deputy treasurer Doug Hulme; community development director Frank Miles is to be replaced by political consultant Kristen Poshard; administrative services director Barry Davis is to be replaced by outgoing Republican County Board member Steve Adler; and animal control director Dr. David Hall is to be replaced by former Republican Congressional candidate Dr. Michael Firsching.
Each of the new department heads will be voted on by the new County Board. The agenda also includes committee assignments and chairmanships, but Prenzler said that is likely to be pulled from the agenda, as the slate has not been fully decided yet. Under former Chairman Alan Dunstan, most of the committees were chaired by Democrats, with at least two Republicans also in leadership positions.
The new board will meet at 5 p.m. in the County Board chambers.